Alyaksandr Lukashenka severely criticized on Thursday the performance of Belarus' footwear industry, accusing key shoe makers of feeding off the country's gold and foreign exchange reserves.
Imports account for seventy percent of the cost of shoes made by leading footwear companies Luch, Belwest and San Marko, Mr. Lukashenka said at a government conference. "In other words, what is made in our country is also almost not ours," the government's news agency BelTA quoted him as saying.
The footwear industry's foreign trade deficit has soared more than fivefold to some $40 million since 2006.
The Belarusian leader attacked shoemakers for outsourcing much of their manufacturing. "They have reduced their own manufacturing to attaching the sole to the shoe," he said.
Mr. Lukashenka also lashed out at leather makers for exporting the best of their goods. "They have failed to supply our country's footwear industry with enough leather of high quality," he said.
In the last few years, the annual output of footwear has fallen from 16 million to 13 million pairs in Belarus, while shoe imports have soared more than tenfold to some 10 million pairs, or over $200 million. "That means that we are losing our market, giving our money to the stranger. The main reason for that is the low quality and too narrow range of Belarusian-made footwear," Mr. Lukashenka said.